Feb. 3, 2014— -- Coupon clippers have seen the future and the future is coupon clicking.
A handful of new couponing mobile apps are making it easier than ever to save money on groceries, minus the paper, scissors and scraps. And consumers are grabbing at the opportunity with fervor.
Checkout 51, a free mobile app geared toward coupon clippers in the U.S., launched on Jan. 9, 2014 and has already seen more than 350,000 downloads. Company representatives stated that the merging of couponing with mobile technology was a natural combination.
"Ninety-two percent of Americans use coupons and 55 percent of American adults own a smartphone so there’s obviously a lot of overlap," Checkout 51 founder Noah Godfrey told ABC News, citing figures previously released by Retailmenot and Pew Research Center.
In fact, Retailmenot's 2013 Shoppers Trend Report on couponing habits surveyed 1,067 respondents online and found that "while printable coupons remain the most widely used type of coupon (60 percent), online coupon usage has nearly doubled (29 percent vs. 16 percent three years ago) and mobile coupon usage has nearly tripled in the past three years (10 percent vs. 4 percent three years ago)."
"We launched in Canada in December 2012 and quickly became the #1 grocery savings app in the country," Godfrey wrote in an e-mail to ABC News. More than 600,000 Canadians are currently using the app and the company reports that it has paid back its members more than $2.2 million in coupon savings.
Available for free from App Store for Apple iOS devices and on Google Play for Android devices, the app is structured fairly simply.
Each Thursday, Checkout 51 releases new offers for 16 to 30 products from national brands such as SC Johnson, Kellogg's, Mondelez and others, Godfrey said. The consumer may purchase these products from any store, whether brick and mortar or an online retailer, but afterward they must scan their receipt onto the app to record a credit for the corresponding coupon. Once a member's account has reached a $20 credit, a check can be issued or the money can be held to accrue a higher balance.
"Once a member requests a check, we mail it to them within 10 business days," he said, adding "As long as you have a receipt that proves you purchased the product on offer, you can save using Checkout 51."
A competing app, Ibotta, functions similarly to Checkout 51, but members may currently only scan receipts for products from 50 partner merchants in the United States. Still, options range from retailers such as Home Depot and Target to restaurants, including Chili's and Quiznos.
Ibotta also requires members to interact more with different brands, encouraging them to perform various tasks such as "tweet an offer," "take a short poll" or "watch a video" to unlock pending cash toward a desired product. But reimbursement is swift and convenient: You can link your PayPal account directly to Ibotta for a paperless transfer.
Will all of this online activity cause brands to veer away from offering coupon inserts in newspapers altogether? Likely not anytime soon.
"We use a variety of media and platforms to drive engagement with our consumers," said Karen Edelstein, senior manager of Digital Marketing for Mondelez, one of the world's largest snack companies. But she did acknowledge that the immediacy of apps was a boon and that they allow for customized offerings for customers.
"Checkout 51 gives us real-time insight into who is buying our products," she said. "Plus, their platform allows us to give different offers to different consumers based on what they’ve purchased in the past. We look forward to incorporating it into our strategy and seeing the consumer feedback."